Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
In the wake of multiple recalls of infant formula in recent years, the federal government has finalized standards that will require manufacturers to test their products for nutritional content as well as possible exposure to germs and bacteria. Earlier this year the new guidelines were announced; they are based on two years’ worth of research, during which time Gerber voluntarily recalled some formula because of a strange odor, and some brands of organic formula were found to contain high levels of inorganic arsenic.
More from Reuters on the finalization and what it means for formula manufacturers–and parents:
While public health officials generally say breast milk is best for babies, they acknowledge that many infants get some or part of their nutrition through formula. The new rule, FDA said, is aimed at establishing so-called “good manufacturing practices” that many companies have already adopted voluntarily.
It also only applies to formula marketed for “for use by healthy infants without unusual medical or dietary problems,” FDA said in a statement.
Under the regulation, companies must screen formula for salmonella, which can cause diarrhea and fever resulting in particularly severe problems for babies. They must also check for cronobacter, known to live in dry conditions such as powdered formula and cause swelling of the brain known as meningitis in infants.
While the FDA does not approve infant formula products before they can be sold, under the rule companies must also test their products’ nutrient content and show that their formulas can “support normal physical growth,” the agency said.
Image: Baby having a bottle, via Shutterstock
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Child Health, Parenting News, Safety
Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Chinese researchers are apparently working on developing a synthetic breast milk based on the actual chemical makeup of real human breast milk, as Newser reports:
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China’s government is spending $1.6 million to make its own breast milk. The goal is an artificial version of the milk of Chinese moms—a project that involves studying the real stuff to develop what China Daily calls a “breast milk database.”
Existing baby formula in the country adheres to World Health Organization ingredient standards, but it might not be quite right for China’s infant population, Chinese researchers have said.
China is the world’s biggest baby formula market, with parents spending $15 billion on it last year, Quartz notes. As of last year, only 28% of infants in the country were breastfed, compared to 40% globally, per a Wall Street Journal report. The new effort follows a formula crisis in 2008 that saw thousands of babies poisoned.
Monday, March 10th, 2014
A study that is making headlines across the media and in parenting blogs suggests that the long-term benefits attributed to breastfeeding–such as lower risks of obesity, asthma, and behavior disorders–are actually more a function of the good health and socioeconomic status of mothers who breastfeed, rather than developmental effects of the breast milk itself. More from The New York Times:
Researchers at Ohio State University compared 1,773 sibling pairs, one of whom had been breast-fed and one bottle-fed, on 11 measures of health and intellectual competency. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14 years.
The researchers recorded various health and behavioral outcomes in the sibling pairs, including body mass index, obesity, asthma, hyperactivity, reading comprehension, math ability and memory-based intelligence. The study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, found no statistically significant differences between the breast-fed and bottle-fed siblings on any of these measures.
By studying “discordant” siblings — one of whom had been breast-fed and the other not — the authors sought to minimize the possibility that racial, socioeconomic, educational or other differences between families could affect the results. Many earlier studies on breast-feeding failed to control for such factors, they say.
Campaigns to increase the rate of breast-feeding have been highly successful in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three-quarters of American mothers now breast-feed, compared with less than two-thirds in 2000, and about 49 percent are still breast-feeding at six months, compared with 34 percent in 2000.
Yet despite this increase, researchers have consistently found large socioeconomic and racial disparities in breast-feeding rates. A C.D.C. survey in 2008 found that 75 percent of white infants and 59 percent of black infants were ever breast-fed, and in 2013, the agency reported that 47 percent of white babies but only 30 percent of black babies were still being breast-fed at 6 months. Compared with bottle-fed infants, breast-fed babies are more likely to be born into families with higher incomes, have parents with higher educational attainments, and live in safer neighborhoods with easier access to health care services.
Still, sibling studies such as this latest one do not solve all the problems of bias. “We were not able to control for everything that could affect what would make a mom breast-feed one child and not the other,” said the lead author, Cynthia G. Colen, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State. “But we did control for premature birth, birth order, the age of the mother, and whether she was working when she had one infant and not when she had the other.”
Geoff Der, a statistician at the University of Glasgow who has worked with the same data in previous studies, said that the findings in the present study were robust and the authors’ method for eliminating selection bias was powerful. He had reassuring words for women who do not or cannot breast-feed.
“In a society with a clean water supply and modern formulas,” he said, “a woman who isn’t able to breast-feed shouldn’t be feeling guilty, and the likelihood that there’s any harm to the baby is pretty slim.”
Image: Baby having a bottle, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 10th, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration has announced new guidelines meant to make sure infant formula is both safe and nutritious. The new guidelines are based on two years’ worth of research, during which time Gerber voluntarily recalled some formula because of a strange odor, and some brands of organic formula were found to contain high levels of inorganic arsenic. More on the FDA’s new rules from The Associated Press:
Most formula makers already abide by the practices, but the FDA now will have rules on the books that ensure formula manufacturers test their products for salmonella and other pathogens before distribution. The rules also require formula companies to prove to the FDA that they are including specific nutrients — proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals — in their products.
It is already law that formula must include those nutrients, which help babies stay healthy. But the new rules will help the FDA keep tabs on companies to make sure they are following the law. The rule would require manufacturers to provide data to the FDA proving that their formulas support normal physical growth and that ingredients are of sufficient quality.
“The FDA sets high quality standards for infant formulas because nutritional deficiencies during this critical time of development can have a significant impact on a child’s long-term health and well-being,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said.
The rules also are aimed at new companies that come into the market. In recent years, grocery store aisles have become even more crowded with new kinds of formula, some capitalizing on natural or organic food trends.
The agency said breastfeeding is strongly recommended for newborns but that 25 percent of infants start out using formula. By three months, two-thirds of infants rely on formula for all or part of their nutrition.
The FDA doesn’t approve formulas before they are marketed but formula manufacturers must register with the agency. The FDA also conducts annual inspections of facilities that manufacture infant formula — far more often than the agency does inspections of other food facilities.
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Image: Infant formula, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Mothers in the United Arab Emirates are now required by law to breastfeed their babies for their first two years of life. The Huffington Post reports on the new regulations, which would enable a husband to sue his wife if she fails to breastfeed:
The Emirates’ Federal National Council has passed a clause, part of their new Child Rights Law, requiring new moms to breastfeed their babies for two full years, The National reports. Now, men can sue their wives if they don’t breastfeed.
According to the National, there was a “marathon debate” over the legislation, but it was ultimately decided that it is every child’s right to be breastfed.
Research has found many benefits of breastfeeding for baby, from reducing the risk of obesity to better language and motor development.
However, not all new moms are able to nurse. In those instances, if a woman is prohibited by health reasons, the council will provide a wet nurse to her. It’s unclear exactly how a mother’s ability to breastfeed will be determined though.
Though breastfeeding is not required in the U.S., experts agree it is the healthiest way to feed a newborn. In 2012, Michael Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York City, introduced a controversial statewide provision requiring hospitals to “sign out” formula in the same way it dispenses medication, in a effort to encourage more women to breastfeed.
Download our free breastfed babies care chart to help track your baby’s feeding schedule.
Image: Breastfeeding newborn, via Shutterstock
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